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Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Challenge: It's All Downhill From Here.

I absolutely cannot believe how quickly the last six months have gone! I am already officially halfway done my year long challenge. It's all downhill from here! If you missed the first posts, have a look here!

Things are certainly getting more challenging. I'd love nothing more than to get a hair cut and a fresh colour (especially now that it's winter and I'm still sporting blonde locks). I did have a dear friend and fabulous stylist take a look at my hair a couple of weeks ago, however; and she said that I really only have about a centimetre that needs to be taken off! I'm hopeful that I will be able to retain most of the new length at the end of this all!

Day 44 compared with Day 184
Day 184
Fringe is almost fully grown out!
Aside from desiring a fresh cut, and healthy, happy locks again; I am having some serious hair envy this season. I am in love with the reds that are out this fall; here's to hoping the colours are back next year! As an aside, I am happy to finally (after about 12 years) see my natural hair colour again. I'm excited to see it grown in and see how it changes with the seasons.

Talk about hair envy! Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

Until next month!

xo, A

Friday, 26 September 2014

Faith Filled Fridays: Where We Find Peace.

There's a lot that goes on in life. Lately, I've noticed it's becoming harder and harder to "keep up." From full time work, to relationships, volunteer work, holidays, events... it's easy to get caught up in the day to day. What's important is where we take refuge; where we find peace.

My husband and I have been talking a lot lately about seeing God in the "mundane." God is where we find our peace, but so often we think that means time spent in deliberate prayer, time spend in God's word, or in fellowship ONLY. Those acts are obedient, they are God filled and they do bring peace! But God is present in everything we do; and because He is there with us always, we can always find peace in Him. 

"The Lord with give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace." - Psalms 29:11

Whether I am making dinner for myself, taking the dog for a walk, or working on a tedious project I wish would come to an end, I can find God and the peace I have in Him. It's in the sun that shines on my shoulders, my puppy's adorable grin, the fact that I have a job, the knowledge that God gives us only what we can handle.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33

Life can get terribly overwhelming, but when we slow down, and refocus, we can see that God is in everything we do.

My prayer this day is that we would all step back, that we would find those details that God shows Himself to us in daily. That we would see the "ordinary" ways that God reaches us. Amen.

Have a great weekend!

xo, A

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Challenge: An Overdue Update, for an Overdue Mop.

Okay, okay. I will admit. Mop might be a little bit of an overstatement. My hair certainly isn't the picture of health, but I am happily surprised by how well its doing! I recently passed the fourth month mark; it's officially been 133 days since my last hair cut and colour!

If you missed the start of my personal challenge and am wondering what in the world I am doing going this long without any up keep, you can catch up here and here!

Finally! A pony tail!

Fringe is passing the awkward stage.

I've recently had to do a bit of an overhaul in the products department. The changing season and an increase in the use of heat tools left me in a bit of a dilemma. 

No 'Poo - No More

For the majority of the summer I rode out the no 'poo or minimal 'poo trend. I went well until I went camping in the desert for a week and ended up with the WORST dandruff of my life. I'm actually not sure that I ever had it before then. Needless to say as soon as I got home I purchased a bottle of Head & Shoulders and after the very first wash I was in love. For the last four (give or take) years I have used exclusively salon quality products and I can honestly say that with one exception this is by far my favourite. I have no itches, no flakes, my hair is shinny, I can go two days without having to rewash if I choose, I have just the right amount of body and it allows my natural curls to come out. I use the Smooth & Silky collection,  but they have a number of different ones to suit any hair needs.

Old Faithful

Marrakesh Oil. An absolute life saver. I had used Argon oil for a number of months, but found it too oily for my hair. I switched about two years ago and I could not be happier. It is the only hair product, tool or accessory that I NEED. It's a miracle worker, it soaks right in, and if I didn't know better I would swear it actually repairs my split ends. Darn near perfect.

The Missing Link

As I mentioned above, I've started using heat tools a lot more lately. Unfortunately, I still haven't found a heat protection spray that I like. I find they all create a ridiculous amount of build up. Up to this point I have tried mostly drug store brands. I am trying to stay away from water based products as they cause your hair to become frizzy and I have enough of that already! 

Do you have any suggestions? What do you use for heat protection?

**Note that I am in no way affiliated with any mentioned products**

Friday, 19 September 2014

Faith Filled Fridays: Patience, Prayer, Persistence.

If you haven't been following along it won't take you long to catch up, the first two posts are here and here

After making the initial decision and overcoming the fear that came with; all I could do was leave things to God. I knew that He would provide for me. For the first time in my journey with Him I felt truly free. It was liberating to leave it all to Him. Worries evaporated. 

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12

I prayed. I thanked. I was patient. I was persistent.

It was difficult. I was unsure of what God wanted me to do. But maybe that was just it; maybe I wasn't supposed to do anything.

On the final day of my employment with the company I was leaving I received a call. A job opportunity that I thought had come and past was on the other end of the line. An interview I never thought would happen, fell into my lap. It took more prayer. It took more patience. If God didn't want me to do anything, should I pass up the chance?

This was the first time that I had received an oportunity at a position that I studied for. I took the interview. Within 3 hours I had received a call back. My heart raced. My hands sweat. And still I prayed. 

I. Got. The. Job.

All my patience; not just in those few weeks, but in the last year. Working jobs that didn't fit my education. Volunteering to get the experience I needed. Working four years to receive my degree. It had all come through in one giant blessing. 

It's safe to say my prayer life has been forever changed. God is so good. He is so faithful. He desires us. He desires relationships and conversations with us.

My prayer this day is that we all would be diligent in prayer. That we would be in constant conversation with our Creator, telling him our fears, sharing our thanks. Knowing that He is consistent, never changing. Amen.

Have a blessed weekend friends!

xo, A.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Faith Filled Fridays: Fear.

Last week I started a multi-part post on the season of trust I am currently in (post here). This week I am continuing with the undeniable and crippling fear that set in after my act of obedience. 

I've written before on the readiness of devil; striking anywhere God is hard at work. Immediately after hearing from, and listening to my instructions from the Lord the doubt and uncertainty set in. 

My biggest fears were certainly financial. While we certainly could get by on my husbands wage, other factors played in adding to the difficulty of living on a single wage. 

To add to that there was a looming feeling of disappointing those who were closest to me. I was perplexed about what my next moves should be, or even if there should be a next move.

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41:10

This verse from Isaiah says so elegantly what my soul needed to hear. "Do not be afraid, for I am with you." God is always with us. He always has our best interest at heart. We are His children and He is our faithful father, He would never lead us astray.

The fear did not evaporate immediately, but I had a new weapon in my arsenal. A constant reminder that God would not forsake me, He would not lead me down a path of destruction. A great deal of patience (which I will shed light on next week) has been necessary for this season, and thus it has been easy for uncertainties to continue creeping in.

My prayer on this day is that all would have faith in the Lord. That we would constantly be reminded of His greatness, of His plan, and of His promise to be with us always, strengthening us and carrying us through weakness and uncertainty. Amen!

Have a safe and blessed long weekend!


Monday, 11 August 2014

Faith Filled Fridays: I will trust in You.

I am currently in a season of life that is whole heartedly focused on trusting the Lord. It's on my heart to share this season and this trust, as it has been so life altering for me. Over the next three of four Friday's I will be unwrapping this season of trust, and all the trials that have come with. Enjoy!

"Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

A few weeks ago, after much prayer and several mornings of tear filled commutes to work I decided I needed to end my current employment arrangements. I had spent six months in the position, and while the people I worked with were lovely and I really couldn't complain, I was completely unfulfilled and unchallenged. 

It wasn't an easy decision. I had so many reservations. Was this the right choice? Would we struggle financially? What would I do once I'd quit? Should I find a new job? Should I go back to school? 

I was completely and utterly terrified; but, for the first time I felt 100% positive that I knew what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to quit. 

I obeyed. It felt liberating, freeing, empowering. 

Unfortunately, like all instances where the Lord is hard at work, the devil isn't far behind. Next friday I am going to share the period of fear that followed my act of obedience.

My prayer for this week is that we would have hearts and ears that are open to the Lord in all seasons. That we would be patient and focused; never being distracted long enough to miss a cue from our heavenly Father. Amen!

Have a blessed weekend friends.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Faith Filled Fridays: Wives.

The day has finally arrived; the second wedding of the summer! I'm so thrilled to be able to celebrate the love between two dear friends and God.
In case you missed the posts on the first wedding, you can see them here and here.
"Wives submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord." Ephesians 5:22
The act of submission is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "yielding to governance or authority." Personally, this definition causes me to put walls up. The "no one can tell me what to do, you're not the boss of me" walls. The truth is, this is a common misconception. Ignorance to the multiple definitions of the word submit, or submission, causes us to assume that the apostle Paul is conveying to us that we must obey our husbands as if we were slaves.
Submission, like love, has several different biblical definitions. The particular submission that Paul is talking about in this verse: Hupotasso. Hupotasso is a Greek word meaning "to yield to one's advice."
I've always viewed marriage as a sort of "team." Where challenges are met together, and evils are defeated by a united force. On any team you have a captain; the captain is the leader, and a good leader leads by example, they empower their teammates, sacrifice personal glory and advise. They don't enslave, or degrade, or suppress. A good teammate on the other hand respects their captain, they trust their judgment and likewise sacrifice personal glory.
When Paul tells us to submit to our husbands he isn't suggesting that we should become salves. He is encouraging us to trust, respect and sacrifice for them.

The love birds! Photo credit: Barnett Photography.

My prayer this week is for the couple of the day! That they would always remember to submit humbly, through respect, trust and selfishness. That they would empower each other daily. That they would love, forgive and cherish one another always and fearlessly pursue God. That they would practice patience, both with each other and themselves and that they would grow with Christ at the center of their marriage. That they would keep their eyes on Him through all things, never looking outward. I pray every blessing on these two, forever and for always. Amen!

Have a blessed weekend friends! Check back for the wedding recap next week!

xo, A

Friday, 1 August 2014

Faith Filled Fridays: Comparison.

I recently watched a three part series by Andy Stanley called The Comparison Trap. It may have been the most life changing sermon series I have ever watched. I'm sure that it resonated with me so strongly because comparison tends to devour me. It robs me of my happiness and sucks the life from me.
"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30
The premise of the series is that "there is no win in comparison." Those six words challenged me. They challenged me in ways, and on levels that I could not even imagine. I've always fueled myself comparatively. Whether I was competing with myself, or with someone else, I always wanted to be better. Faster. Smarter. Thinner. Stronger. Funnier. Prettier. More successful. The more I believed I was these things, the better I felt. But when I wasn't, emotional and psychological chaos set in.

Photo source: Pinterest
Stanley hits on some topics that a lot of people wouldn't. He enters "unsafe" territory (one of the main reasons I enjoy his series so much). Early on in the series he poses a number of questions, one of them being "who would you secretly enjoy seeing fail?" Wow. Now, if you're a normal human being, one or many names just probably popped into your head. That doesn't make you evil, but it certainly shows the evil that has the potential to live, grow and strangle all of us if we let it.
The truth of the comparison game is that God compares us to no one. He's created each of us to run our own race, to fight different battles and have different triumphs. Instead of expending energy comparing our lives to others, we should be focusing on living God's will. We need to take our cues from God, not from the world.
Stanley leaves us with these words; arguably as challenging as the first, "celebrate what God gives others and leverage what God has given you." Imagine the changes we would see if we celebrated for others, if we expressed positivity rather than envy and jealousy; emotions that rot us to the core.
My prayer today is that we would all be freed from "the comparison trap." Regardless of faith, or relationship with God, we could all benefit from being freed of this heavy, life-sucking cycle. I pray that we would learn to celebrate others triumphs and talents, and leverage our own for God's kingdom.  Amen.
Do you find that comparison is an issue in your life? Marriage? Relationship's? Leave me a comment below!
Have a blessed and safe weekend friends! Enjoy your extra day off!
xo, A

Monday, 28 July 2014

What I'm Loving: Lately.

Summer has been crazy and is flying by at lightening speed! Before summer escapes us completely I want to share a few of the things I'm really enjoying lately.
Seriously, I need to know who invented these?! Whoever it is, they're a genius! I eat them for breakfast, dinner, snacks, post workout, you name it. They take all of 30 seconds to throw together and are taste-bud paradise!
Photo source: Fitsugar.

The T-shirt Dress.
It's basically an invitation to wear your pajamas in public and still look chic. Uber comfy, uber cute; there's no denying the intelligence of the t-shirt dress.
Photo source: Pinterest.

Photo source: Pinterest.

These Sunglasses.
I took a chance, and I'm loving it.
A few days ago a friend sent me the link to 100 Happy Days; I've decided to take on the challenge! While I'm only a few days in, it has already been inspiring. Life really is better when we shift the focus to what makes us smile! You can follow my one hundred days on instagram (@amandaagraace).
What things are you loving this summer? Have you tried overnight oats?
xo, A

Friday, 25 July 2014

Faith Filled Fridays: The Divine.

One of my dear friends recently wrote a post on her blog about "but God" moments (post here). The post really got me thinking about my own "but God" experiences.

I asked Christ into my life almost 3 years ago, in September of 2011. It didn't take long for the spiritual attacks to start. As a new believer the fire of Christ was alive in me and, not surprisingly, the devil wasn't pleased with that. Satan hit me where it hurt, and hit me hard.

Legitimacy was something I had always struggled with (and occasionally still do). After coming to Christ, Satan did his best to magnify this weakness, reminding me time and again that I couldn't be forgiven for my past, that I would never be able to right my wrongs and I would certainly never be good enough.

I woke from my sleep in the wee hours of the morning one January day. I reached for my bible and it opened to a page and I was drawn to this verse:

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:17-18

I had started to believe that I really wasn't worth it: but, God woke me up in the middle of the night just to tell me that I was. Can we just take a moment to realize the magnitude of this? I was sleeping. Out cold. I woke up and the first thing I did was open my bible. My bible opened to the book of John and my eyes were immediately drawn to this text. I was doubting myself but God told me otherwise.

That's divine.

My prayer is that we would keep our hearts and eyes open. The we would recognize and appreciate the "but God" moments. Amen!

Have you experienced a divine moment? Please share in the comments!

xo, A

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lesson's Learned: Year one.

As many of you know, my hubby and I celebrated our first anniversary this month (cue applause). The first year was just as I expected and almost exactly like in the movies! Hah! Only kidding.

This first year was a lot of work. It was also a lot of fun, learning, laughing, crying, fighting, laundry, teamwork, compromise, and loving. I wouldn't change one single thing, but there are somethings I am going to do differently in year two.
Here are a few of the things I learned about myself, and marriage in general, in the last year.
1. I'm wildly impatient. Marriage requires patience. It also requires a lot of selflessness. I'm a work in progress...
2. Marriage is work. It's not seamless. It's not effortless. It takes two people giving 100 percent each and everyday.
3. It's ok to fight, functionally. I think this is one that's become common knowledge, but I'm saying it anyways. You don't need to fight about everything; some things are worth going to the wall on and some aren't. You'll learn which are and which aren't as you go. But sometimes you need to stand up for what you believe, and you should. Notice also that I said functionally. No fists need to be thrown, or daggers in the form of words.
4. You're still two people. I had the most difficult time when my husband and I first got married not feeling like I was trapped. For some reason I had worked up this idea in my mind that everything I would do from that moment on would have to involve my husband. This is untrue. While I value his opinion and talk to him before making most decisions I don't have to do everything with him, the same goes for him.
5. Love is best served biblically. Whether you have a relationship with Christ or not, I honestly believe that there is no better way to love than that which is depicted in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; loving graciously, selflessly, patiently and truthfully.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Monday, 21 July 2014

Endless Love: The First.

As I've mentioned before, my summer is filled with weddings! In fact I've recently learned that I am adding another to the list and I couldn't be more excited!
Here's a recap of the wedding we celebrated this past weekend, as well as the eating, swimming, sun bathing, and laughing that surrounded it!

I had a super lunch date with this beauty!

Some necessary sun bathing by the pool!


Dinner and drinks with two of my faves!

I was so proud of my wedding makeup.

The d├ęcor was stunning.

But not as stunning as the bride herself, cue sobbing.

The girls need a little snack after all their hard work!

 The greatest friends a girl could ask for; so blessed! 

 The beautiful bride and I. 
What a fox! With a wild side, too!

The weekend was absolutely perfect. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect day for a wedding, from the ceremony to reception. The setting, photographers, champagne and cheese covered tortellini were all perfect!

Can't wait to celebrate with these two in just a few short weeks!
xo, A